By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The shingles virus can cause a painful rash that no one wants. That is a big reason why a new vaccine called Shingrix has been so popular.

But since last summer, that vaccine has been in limited supply. That has Charlene from Fairbault and Betty from Nicollet wanting to know: Why is there still a Shingrix shortage?

“In this case, they were just simply, I think, surprised by how much demand there was for this vaccine,” said Dr. Mark Schleiss, a professor pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Minnesota. “They just didn’t anticipate that they would need to manufacture as much as they’d prepared to manufacture.”

In a statement from GlaxoSmithKline, the company that makes Shingrix, says this is a challenging situation to manage.

“We are deeply committed to Shingrix and are working to ensure that the vaccine will be available to individuals who need it,” said GSK spokesperson Sean Clements.

GSK said that since Shingrix was first made available in November 2017, nine million doses have been administered globally through the end of 2018. The company has been able to speed up the manufacturing process to four months from a more typical six to nine months.

“They’re putting it out as fast as they can,” says Lynn Bahta, immunization clinical consultant with the Minnesota Department of Health. “It will just take time.”

(credit: GSK)

Dr. Schleiss says vaccines must undergo a number of safety and manufacturer checks that are complicated and time-intensive.

According to Bahta, GSK told the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at its February meeting it would be in limited supply through the rest of 2019.

GSK says it plans to make large shipments twice a month to the marketplace through the end of the year.

WCCO-TV viewer Annie Arnold got the first of two shots in December, and is now concerned she won’t get the second shot in the recommended six-month window. Shingrix requires two shots.

In response to that concern, the CDC offers this guidance: “You should give the second dose as soon as possible. However, you do not need to restart the vaccine series.”

According to the FDA, Shingrix is the preferred shingles vaccine. Zostavax, which has been in the market since 2006, reduced the occurrence of shingles, but its effectiveness declined with age.

Shingrix’s efficacy rate is more than 90%, according to GSK.

Experts recommend anyone who wants Shingrix to get on the waitlist at a pharmacy, clinic or doctor’s office.

Heather Brown